First up, we have pedestrian clickbait The 50 Best Law Schools in America. The list itself isn't revolutionary or interesting beyond serving as confirmation of prestige to upper T2 attendees/graduates. What struck me, however, is the methodology. If you think that the US News methodology is lacking in sound methods, Business Insider has taken it to 11.5:
To create this list, we surveyed more than 300 American legal professionals to determine the best law schools in the US with the help of SurveyMonkey.Did the record screech on your end, too?
Our survey asked participants to select the top 10 law schools in terms of how well they prepare students to land their ideal job. We recorded the percentage of respondents that ranked each school in the top 10.
Approximately 52% of survey participants said they have a law degree, while 3.5% reported that they had a partial degree, meaning they're either still in law school or dropped out.
You surveyed "legal professionals" but only half claim to have a law degree? Are you ranking law schools based on what paralegals, secretaries, librarians, and HR people think? Did you ask the IT people, too? The bailiff at the courthouse? Unless you have a JD and have been on the job market, how in the world are you qualified to answer the question asked?
More questions with this particular survey abound, such as: How was the "more than 300" decided in a pool that includes hundreds of thousands of people? Did they ever consider that deriving a list of fifty from a bunch of top ten lists is a logical flaw by itself?
As we know, law school rankings are bogus and silly, but I find it disheartening nonetheless that BI's "Top Law Schools" article already has more hits in its first few days than this entire blog got in its first six months of existence. Yet, they can't even be bothered to have a reasonable methodology to back up their nonsense, particularly when they know that law schools market this crap as if it means something.
Does anyone in this industry care about being honest in their life-altering lies?
As-if that counter-revolutionary assault on statistics weren't enough, Business Insider then doubled-down in scam propaganda with - wait for it - Law School is Worth It Even if You Don't Get Into Harvard or Yale.
In a survey of 371 legal professionals conducted by Business Insider, 49.4% of participants said they'd still attend law school even if they didn't get into a top-tier program.It appears that the "371 legal professionals" are from the same damned pool of survey respondents as the "top 50 law schools" bunch. For one, they link to the methodology page from the other article in the first paragraph, and later the article references comparisons to the "top 10" schools chosen by respondents.
Of the legal professionals surveyed, just 35.7% said they would not attend law school if they didn't get into a top program, 14.9% said it depends, and 7.8% did not respond.
"The law school that I attended taught me practical skills and greatly prepared me to practice law in the real world," wrote one respondent, who attended Thomas Cooley School of Law, an unranked law school.
So, uh, do these people even have law degrees? If they don't have a JD, how can they say with any credibility that law school is "worth it?" If less than half are saying they'd attend, isn't that a problem and not a good thing? How in the world is that title appropriate for print?
Sidestepping other problems (why are people who didn't respond being included? of the people who actually have law degrees, do their percentages break down equally as the other "legal professionals?"), there are two issues commonly seen with sham surveys asking whether people would go to law school again that require special mention:
- The population mismatch. If you're going to ask whether people would "still" go to law school, or go to law school all over again, the population is law school graduates. Not lawyers. Not legal professionals. Law school graduates. (Or, if it's strictly a hypothetical about who would go with monopoly money, then you could include people who seriously are thinking or thought about law school).
- The age cohort problem. People who are 45-80 and have had a long and successful career after paying off relatively little student loan debt in boomier times are likely to answer these questions differently than the 25-40 crowd dealing with a terrible attorney market and crushing debt loads. You really can't ask these questions to a 60-year-old because they are as clueless as the 0Ls still looking at InfiLaw schools. Propagation of such flawed surveys is basically the blind leading the blind.
Of course, what happens - and they know this - is that people read the headline and then barely read the rest of the article. This is why newspapers have/used to have ethics standards. And then a bunch of superficial looks at crap articles and marketing materials ends with packing junior's crappy used car before he drives off to Michigan or Florida to pursue his juris dream and start the good life...
Business Insider and its editors can't be this stupid, and they have the resources to not be this stupid. Is it all clickbait, or is there something more sinister at work? There almost has to be. Unfortunately, OTLSS does not have a large staff and a budget to investigate such things.
What strikes me more is that in light of the ongoing faux controversy over bar examination scores and certain scholars continuing to loudly support non-peer reviewed rubbish statistics, it's almost like this whole industry is simply impervious to the straight dope.
Journalism is supposed to be a watchdog on the corporate-government(-educational) complex. It's bad enough when they spout the lies of authority, but when they start helping to make up the lies, we've got a whole new problem.
And yet articles boosting up law school (generally or one school in particular) continue to fester, and sadly reach a much wider and receptive audience than blogs like this one.
But, since law school evaluations require that statistical legerdemain, I'd like to present to you the hot results of my own survey of 117 working legal professionals. When asked if they would attend a non-elite private law school, all 117 said "law school? are you fuckin' serious?"
(Does it really matter than 1 of the 117 was a homeless man who sells postcards outside of the courthouse and the other 116 were yours truly hitting copy and paste [a jd-advantage skill, btw]?)